Box of giraffe poop seized from Iowa woman at airport

While attempting to bring giraffe droppings into the United States to make jewelry, a woman’s droppings were confiscated by border control.

The woman, who was returning to Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport from a vacation in Kenya, reported the feces to customs and said she planned to make a necklace out of the material.

After removing the animal’s mass, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) destroyed it “through steam sterilization in accordance with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) destruction protocol,” it said in a statement.

The woman said she had made jewelry from other animal feces in the past, including that of a moose.

Giraffe poop
U.S. Customs and Border Protection image of giraffe feces. The droppings were destroyed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection

“We were really a little shocked. Normally we don’t get feces in it. We don’t see this every day,” said Lauren Lewis, chief of CBP’s agriculture division in Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, told Minnesota Public Radio. “We usually inspect a lot of fruits and vegetables, as well as meat and plants that people bring in. So the fecal material that people wanted to bring was an unusual statement for us.”

“Apparently she makes jewelry out of moose poop at home. When she saw giraffe poop on a safari, she thought it would be a unique addition to her crafts,” Lewis said.

Animal feces may contain disease-causing microbes that are common in the country of origin and can pose a danger to anyone exposed to them. According to the CBP statement, diseases including African swine fever, classical swine fever, Newcastle disease, foot-and-mouth disease and swine vesicular disease can be found in the feces of ruminant animals from Kenya. Many of these only pose a threat to livestock, but some can also spread to humans.

“There is a real danger of bringing feces into the United States,” LaFonda D. Sutton-Burke, CBP director of Field Operations-Chicago Field Office, said in the statement. “If this person had entered the U.S. and not declared these items, there is a high possibility that a person would have contracted an illness and developed serious health problems from this jewelry.”

Giraffe poop
Stock image of a giraffe’s hind legs and tail with feces.

Anyone who wanted to import animal feces from ruminants into the USA needed a veterinary permit, which the woman did not have. A willful violation of this can result in a fine of $300 to $1,000. However, the woman was unaware that she needed a permit and explained that she was bringing the feces into the country, meaning she would not face any sanctions.

“She had no intention of affecting U.S. agriculture in any way. It was just something she did as a hobby,” Lewis said. “At home she makes jewelry out of feces. So she just saw something that could be an interesting addition to her hobby. Unfortunately, it is these harmless imports that can sometimes have the biggest impact.”

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